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Sunday, May 21, 2023

Diversity And Dumbing Down–Lowest Common Denominator Education In America

Sylvia Patten always knew that she was the smartest girl in the class and way beyond the limited reach of the gnarly boys in Mrs. Linder’s third grade.  “They’re stupid”, she said to no one in particular after she had to wait what seemed like days before Christmas until Johnny Looper got the correct answer.  Coaxed, encouraged, and persuaded, little Johnny still couldn’t get it, and yet there he was holding up traffic while Sylvia drew stars and rainbows on her composition paper. 

“You can do it, Johnny”, said Mrs. Linder who knew she was treading a fine line between self-esteem and arithmetic.  The longer Johnny wandered about in the weeds, perplexed about the value of things and wading in a current far too strong for his very limited brain, the more damage would be done to his self-esteem; yet this boy who would never get beyond one-plus-one had to be given a chance to measure up. When to give him the hook was the question.

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Johnny flubbered on, trying one plausible answer after the other until she stepped in.  “The answer is seven”, said Mrs. Linder kindly. 

“Oh, my God”, sighed Sylvia.  “What a dummy”.  Now, she had been told by her mother and warned by her teachers never to call anyone dumb.  “No one is dumb”, explained the principal, to whom ‘a very uppity, socially inept third-grader’, Sylvia Patten was called in for special attention.  “Each student has special abilities, special talents, and a unique intelligence.  Johnny Looper, for example….” Here the principal stopped, for he couldn’t think of anything that Johnny was good at.  

He was a a dunce at arithmetic, a hopeless cipher at reading, a duffer on the playground, a sloppy dresser, and totally charmless. “Johnny can sing beautifully”, he ventured, but Sylvia knew how he had been given a solo part just because he couldn’t do anything else right and would be applauded for his pluck. He remembered only the first line of the song, bobbled the next, and  gave up before the third while Miss Prentice the music teacher quickly pounded out a melody on the piano until he sat down.

Cooperative learning was an essential part of learning at Bryce Elementary, and the school administration, municipal school board, and the teachers’ union were all proud of it.  Cooperative learning was an educational method by which the less able children were helped by the more able. Peer education would kill two birds with one stone – it would make learning a friendly, social education for all students; and learning without the punitive atmosphere of the traditional classroom would accelerate knowledge.

Of course nothing could have been farther from the truth.  The smart kids berated, dismissed, and blew off the dumb ones in their charge. Neither group learned anything. The smart ones languished in the bottom of the gene pool, and the dumb ones were too dumb to learn anything.  Yet, it was the principle of the thing that counted.  The means were more important than the ends, and there was nothing wrong with the system that a little tweaking wouldn’t fix.  Learning the three R’s was secondary to learning life’s lessons of compassion, generosity, and patience.

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Bryce Elementary, with guidance from progressive educators, did away with scaled classes.  No more reading or math groups to which students of varying abilities were assigned.  Such a system was inherently prejudicial and racist, and all students should be classed together.  No more manors or slave quarters; no upstairs, downstairs; no big house and tarpaper shacks.  Everyone is as equal as slices of a pizza pie, said the principal, approving the new reform.

Which meant that Sylvia had to put in overtime with cooperative learning.  The bell curve – smart, dumb, and most in the middle - had been skewed in her neighborhood thanks to affirmative action.  ‘Out-of-bounds’ children, slow learners all, far outnumbered the best and the brightest.

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The educational program at Bryce Elementary would have been bad enough, affirmative action and cooperative learning being what they are, but the progressive powers that be didn’t stop there. Elementary school was none too soon to begin courses in gender education, curricula designed to expose young children to the diversity of sexual experience.  

While these early learners knew little about sex, they were already becoming little heterosexuals – trained in today’s regressive society to reject and dismiss the other-gendered, the queer, the sexually different.  In like manner, these third-graders had already incorporated systemic racist, white supremacist views of the world.  Such infiltration of negativity, hostility, and bald racial hatred had to be nipped in the bud.

The new curriculum at Bryce was not designed to teach tolerance of the other, but to promote alternative sexual life styles and to raise the black man to his rightful place at the top of the human pyramid. Whiteness and straightness were to be confronted with extreme prejudice.  Not one scintilla of retrograde sexual or racial commentary would be permitted at Bryce and all children who graduated would be model young citizens of diversity and inclusivity.

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All of which added insult to injury to Sylvia Patten who only wanted to learn.  She had a precocious sense of numbers and number theory, was already bilingual and on her way to learning her grandmother’s arcane Uzbek Turkic tongue. She could differentiate a toccata from a fugue, Art Nouveau from Art Deco, and Slovakia from Slovenia.  What on earth was she doing languishing in the backwash of Bryce Elementary?  Her parents, both of modest means, had not the resources for any of the city’s premier private schools, nor money for tutors.  For the time being at least, Sylvia would be stuck at Bryce.

Then, by a stroke of luck, a new conservative governor was elected in her state, and within the first few weeks of his inauguration he did away with all ‘damaging, destructive, demeaning, insane’ educational policies.  No more gender-bending, LGBTQ+ advocacy, no black racial superiority, and the state would go back to basics, reality, and objectivity.  

No longer would bright children have to founder on the shoals.  They would sail on four-masters, captains and officers of their ships; and so it was that the principal, all teachers and teachers aides at Bryce Elementary were let go and a new stable of conservative-minded nuts-and-bolts, hearty educators took their places.  

Taxpayer monies would no longer be spent on irrelevancies.  Students would graduate from the state’s public schools able to vote intelligently, get decent paying jobs, and have the advantage of a world-oriented education.  “Things are going to change around here”, the governor said, and so they did.

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